Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I love the sun. It's been cold and gray lately, and I've been doing a lot of reading down in my basement. This morning I had to go in to work earlier than usual, and I realized that in addition to being earlier than I anticipated, I also needed to finish reading the History of the Conquest of Mexico (grrrr... 456 pages... written in 1843... super small type). I headed over to the Johnson Center to the upper atrium in the library and found the room filled with early morning sunlight. It was actually interesting to read about Cortes and Montezuma and conquest and gold. The book turned out to be quite the romantic adventure (not as in love, but more as in adventure).

But more then that, I loved basking in the winter sunlight. I had forgotten the power of warmth and light. I know there's vitamin D or something and there's some chemical balancing out, but I yearned for the emotional warmth. I actually fell asleep up there in the ragged old cheap easy chair. It was one of the best naps I've had in a long time. The sun made all the difference.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's all about perspective. This morning in my yoga class, I saw myself in the mirror in a new angle and was horrified. My downward dog looks so clumsy and awkward! All this time I thought I was smoothly gliding through my sun salutations, but as I peeked behind me between my legs, I realized that my knees are totally bent inward and my back makes more of a table than a nice inverted angle. I tried and tried to belly in, but my body just wouldn't slide into it like everyone around me. And I think my butt is crooked. I swear--I've never noticed so many weird angles where it should have been straight... It was all a bit disconcerting, and the stretch felt awkward and almost painfully weak.

But then a little later with a shift to the side, I caught myself in a very beautiful reverse triangle. I was in form, in line, everything going the right direction--you could have fit me between two glass walls just like the yoga instructor always says. Suddenly I was strong and capable and graceful. That's the perspective I want to keep with me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I come from a family of sewers. Crazy quilters. My great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my cousin, my aunt--we are all drawn to fabrics and patterns and colors and textures. For weddings and babies, we quilt. We have to touch and create and cover and warm.

I grew up playing under the quilts my mom and GrandNomi quilted in her basement next door--I loved playing with the thumbtacks and scraps (I still remember the box with the yellow rose on the top where she kept thumbtacks) and looking at the underbelly of the quilt, helping them roll the boards over as they moved in and fetching thimbles and thread and whatever. I have a quilt made by my great grandmother hanging on my bedroom wall--with its wild, bright colors and cotton peeking out. I was told that she picked the cotton on her farm in southeastern Arizona. I remember walking down the long rows of cotton plants as we trekked from her house to the Gila River to play in the mud, and I wonder if she did the same thing to escape the summer heat.

My mom bought me a sewing machine for a birthday and graduation present five or six years ago, and it surprisingly has become one of my most prized possessions. It's not even fancy--something on sale from Sears--but I love it dearly. I felt separated when I had to leave it in Utah--no space in my Harlem apartment. I brought it home to Virginia with me on the airplane after Thanksgiving. I called Delta to find out if I could carry it on the plane--and after a long pause and wait on hold, I discovered I could as long as I removed the needle. It fit snugly in the overhead bin, and then some nice guy carried it for me along the concourse to baggage claim. I now feel like I'm fully moved in--at home--with my sewing machine.

I don't know what it is. It's not like I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I'm not super domestic. I don't have tons of time to sew. I don't make clothes or costumes. I had my love affair with my sewing machine before the whole new sewing trend with Project Runway. Over Christmas I helped my brother make a quilt for his girlfriend, and I loved watching him participate in this ritual, crossing the traditional gender divide with his own brand of breezy acceptance. I loved watching his rock-climber, river-running, skier hands pick through fabrics, cut, run them through Mom's old machine. I loved hearing how excited his girlfriend was to get her new quilt. I can picture her and him rolled up in it, keeping warm in their freezing cold house in the Colorado mountains.

Recently I decided to make a quilt for my bed that matches my great grandmother's quilt--and I picked out fabrics of the same patterns and colors. I never would have put them together on my own, but I feel her inspiration and guidance. And I realize how much I need her to play an active role in my life. So now, even as the semester starts and I scramble to stay on top of my readings and papers, I have fabric spread across my floor and I puzzle over their patterns. I come home from a late class with my brain so full of questions and critical theory and notes that I need sewing-therapy before I can unwind and go to bed. There's something soothing about cutting things apart and sewing them back together.

Something soothing, and something healing. I love that I can mend something or fix something at the flip of a switch. I love the feel of the fabrics, the comfort that this quilt will cover me and warm me, and that it is of my own making--with the silent and sure hand of my great grandmother--and in turn, my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my cousin, and my aunt. I feel their love. And it all stems from a Sears sewing machine.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I had the most divine meal in New York City last Saturday night. I was in town with a friend and her dad and sister, so we went all out.

Appetizers: butternut squash dumplings and edamame dumplings, spring rolls with ginger mustard and plum sauce, and wan tons.

Rice: vegetable rice with coconut curry foam (and pineapple!).

Vegetable: sugar snap peas with carmelized mushrooms.

Entrees: Kung Pao chicken with apple, shrimp and lobster chow fun with noodles, and the most amazing filet sirloin with wanton potatoes (hello--a cup of Lays potato chips, I swear) and butter garlic soy sauce. I seriously get chills just thinking about it. I have never had beef melt in my mouth like that--I didn't even have to chew! It was amazing.

Dessert: Kaffir lime tart--steamed yuzu souffle, candied citrus, and lemon custard ice cream; and a pumpkin souffle with hazelnut ice cream.

It was amazing. AMAZING. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it--so succulent and full of texture and flavor. My afternoon popcorn snack just doesn't cut it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I think luggage says a lot about a person. I have a navy blue set, cloth, with a black and yellow strap that snaps around each piece. And my set has 4 pieces--the largest being so super big that only Jet Blue will take it without paying extra. I bought the set on a super BYU bookstore sidewalk sale a couple of years ago and it was served me well, thought it is beginning to show signs of wear. My smallest piece, a carry-on, suffers from a broken slide-out handle: you can still use it, but if you pull it all the way out, the metal handle slides right off. The other pieces suffer from typical airplane baggage-handler mishaps--a few scratches and slipped stitches here and there. And then the second biggest piece is becoming mishapen--I think from all the stuff I've stuffed in and sat on to zip closed. You all know what I mean.

Well, I started thinking about all of this when I flew home after Christmas. I sat at the baggage claim in Baltimore for what seemed like a really long time (doesn't it seem like the earlier your flight arrives, the longer you have to wait for your baggage? It's almost like the baggage handlers stick to the flight schedule and deny you of any excitement of actually arriving early), but I found myself purely entertained as I waited for my blue set. You see all sorts of course: from flashy Louis Vuitton leather bags to pink Disney princess little kids' stuff. I spied one suitcase that came out opened with clothes falling out. Now that's embarrassing. And my favorites are the old school hard suitcases with metal snaps. I saw a green one.

And the little ribbons and labels that people attach so they can know what is theirs at a glance. I saw rainbow straps, green Christmas ribbons, knitted pom-poms, professional black labels, etc. It always makes me wonder what's inside, if the owner is coming or going, why the need to travel, etc. While I'm sure many of those suitcases are full of dirty laundry, I hope some of them have seen grand adventures and good times.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

When I flew home for Christmas, I was sort of stuck on the plane in a crowded row with a dad and his 2-1/2 year old and his 1 year old, with the wife and 4-week old baby across the aisle. At first it was quite fun entertaining the girls, but the fun wore off as they got tired and couldn't get comfortable to fall asleep. Covered in cookie crumbs and feeling slightly overwhelmed as an unintentional passenger-made-babysitter, I decided that it as much as I have wanted my own kids, it was ok to be single and free.

Today in church, a woman shared her thoughts and thanked the single women around here who had been able to help take care of her kids. She mentioned that they were often better mothers than she was, that when she was stretched to her limit, they seemed to step in with the extra energy to give her sons attention and love that depleted her.

I had dinner this afternoon with my cousin and her husband and two sons. I love how much her little boys love me. They gave me a million little hugs and kisses and showed me all their tricks and asked me to help them make decorations and to watch them play on the playground out back and to finish their dessert. When Bryce poured his mom's makeup all over the bag, I calmly stepped in and helped her clean it all up. I remembered the words of the woman at church and I was eager to help. On my way home, I called my nephew and niece. As I hung up, Sierra told me, "I love you a hundred percent." How grateful I am to be an aunt and a cousin and an airplane babysitter. While it's especially nice to go home to my own quiet, clean house, with adult conversation, I recognize that I can be a mother in my own way. I've always grumbled at the concept in my very single life, but I realize it's actually a unique blessing to me, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Except maybe a husband and my own kids. And only if they come one at a time in increments and they are clean and well-behaved. And they love me 100%.